Dick’s Brewing Variety Pack

The standard 12 pack variety pack contains either four bottles each of three types of beer, or three bottles each of four types of beer.  Makes logical sense.  However, the variety pack from Dick’s Brewing out of Centralia, Washington, boasts no less than eight varieties.

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This was intriguing since it was a chance to try even more stuff in one go.  I expected a complete random assortment, some one bottle, some three bottles etc.  Turns out it wasn’t quite as random, which made sense from a production standpoint.  The box was arranged with eight of the bottles in four sets of two, and then four singles.  So by minimum of eight, it usually means exactly eight.  This box contained two IPA, two Mountain Amber, two Cream Stout and two Golden Ale.  The four singles were Irish Red, Best Bitter, Grand Cru (Belgian) and Dick Danger (Cascadian Dark/Black IPA).

The first one we opened was the Dick Danger Ale, which they list as their “Flagship” and also as a Cascadian Dark Ale, or Black IPA. Upon opening it was obvious there was a problem.  The beer was light brown, see through, very fizzy but like soda, huge bubbles clinging to the side of the glass and no head retention.  It tasted flat and caramelish.  No hops, no bitterness.

Next we had the Cream Stout and the Mountain Amber.  These two weren’t too bad.  The Stout was roasty enough to be almost smoky, the Amber was oxidized but not as offensive as the CDA.  The last one we tried the first night was the IPA and it was not good.  Hoppy beers just don’t age well at all.  At this point I’m realizing that all of these beers are just old.  Dicks does not print package dates or best by dates on their bottles or the cases and it shows.  Who knows how long these have been sitting in the store.

The next night I tried the Golden Ale and it wasn’t too bad.  Less hops to go bad, and a milder flavor profile to begin with.  The last one I tried was the Grand Cru Belgian, figuring out of any of the styles that one could hold up the most to age.  It was OK, but it was still obviously oxidized and it was very sharp and alcoholic.  I would wager it may have been higher than the label claim of 10% ABV.

The last two I haven’t tried yet are the Irish Red and the Best Bitter.  They are in the fridge right now, but I’m not holding out much hope.

It’s sad really that this could have been a really great variety pack, but just ravaged by time.  I don’t think a lot of people realize just how perishable beer is.  Just like any food product it has an “expiration” date.  Granted, it won’t “spoil”, meaning it won’t go rotten and make you sick, but it can lose a lot of it’s flavor and aroma and just end up not tasting very good.

If we’re ever in Centralia and get a chance to try some fresh, maybe it will be better, but likely not going to take a chance on the variety pack again.

Belmont Station

Portland is a beer town.  Some would argue the beer town.  Despite having the most breweries within it’s city limits of any city in the world (and always adding more), a bunch of thirsty beer geeks demand great beer from all over the world.  And they get it.  There’s a number of top notch bottleshops in town that have a great selection.  The one I’m going to recommend to you right now is Belmont Station.  It’s now on Stark Street, but it used to be on Belmont Street right next to Don Younger’s Horse Brass Pub, which is another local institution with a story for another time.

If you haven’t been to Belmont Station I highly recommend it.  They have an extremely well curated selection and friendly staff that can help you find what you’re looking for.  The bar side has 8-10 rotating taps of draft beer, but you can also grab a bottle from the bottleshop side, take it to the bar and have them open it for you to drink on site.

A couple nights ago a group of friends and I had a party there, essentially a bottle share.  We all grabbed a couple bottles to share and pass around the table.  With 10 people picking things you can imagine the variety of things that people brought to the table.  In fact, it impressed me so much that’s why I wanted to share it.  I didn’t take any tasting notes so I just wanted to list some of the different breweries that were represented, from all over the U.S. and a couple from overseas.  All of these beers were available for sale at Belmont Station, no one brought any outside stuff.

There were plenty of local favorites represented, lest we lose our Beervana cred.  Deschutes, Full Sail, Heathen (Vancouver), Ale Apocathary and Upright were represented from Oregon (and close-in Washington).

From further out in Washington, we had Sound Brewers from Poulsbo (across the Puget Sound from Seattle) and Wingman Brewery from Tacoma.

California, not surprisingly, had a good showing with Heretic from Fairfield (North of San Francisco), Lagunitas from Petaluma, Smog City Brewing from Torrance (Los Angeles area), Three Weavers from Inglewood, North Coast Brewing from Fort Bragg, Stone Brewing from Escondido, and El Segundo Brewing from El Segundo.

Now things start getting a little further afield.  From Colorado we have Avery Brewing from Boulder and Trinity Brewing from Colorado Springs.  From the Midwest we have Off Color Brewing from Chicago and from Alaska we have Anchorage Brewing.

For my East coast friends, we managed to get two breweries from Brooklyn, Other Half and Evil Twin (which almost sound like they could be two breweries separated at birth?) and from Delaware, we have Dogfish Head.

Last but not least, a couple of beers that came to us from across the pond! We have To Øl Brewing from Denmark and Brouwerij Van Steenberge from Belgium.

So there you have it.  A rather impressive list, and thankfully everyone had arranged for a safe ride home after swapping all those bottles.  If you want to take a trip around the world of beer, it doesn’t hurt to start at your local bottle shop.  Once again, if you haven’t checked out Belmont Station, you should.

Tis the Season

I haven’t done a beer review/recommendation post recently, but a couple of things have really lit my fire in the last couple weeks and they are mostly seasonal, so pretty time sensitive if you want to enjoy them as well.   Rating system is based on 5 stars and mirrors what I rate the beer on Untappd.

Citra Fresh Hop Phaedrus – Culmination Brewing (4.75 stars): Holy Cow! If you like citrus hops (like I do) this is the beer for you.  Super strong flavors of orange and grapefruit from the Citra, not overly bitter, very smooth and easy drinking.  Get this one while you can! (6.9% ABV, 65 IBU)

Fresh Hop Fresh Prince of Ales – Gilgamesh Brewing (4.25 stars): Really good fresh hop beer.  Bursting with aroma and strong hop flavor without being overly bitter.  (6.3% ABV, 88 IBU).

Mosaic Me Crazy – Two Kilts Brewing (4.5 stars): Another citrus bomb, if that’s what you’re into.  Sometimes hops can come across as “orange” or “grapefruit” or “lemon”, and sometimes just generic “citrus”, but that’s still OK.  It’s probably a blend of everything so it doesn’t stick out as one specifically but you know it’s citrus when you get it.  (9.6% ABV, 90 IBU).

Grand Mimosa – Ciderboys Cider (Wisconsin) (4.75 stars): Ok, so this is a really unique and interesting cider.  This is a blend of tart red apples and orange juice.  It’s fairly sweet (for a cider) and it legit tastes like a mimosa.  Essentially, fizzy alcoholic orange juice, but it’s really good.  I’d imagine this is pretty hard to find in the PNW, but it’s currently on tap (or was) at Valley Growlers in Happy Valley.  (5.0% ABV)

2009 Bourbon County Stout – Goose Island Brewing (4.75 stars): Yes, this is cheating.  This is less seasonal and more “if you can find it” It helps to have friends who love to share even when that means popping open something really rare.  What I would say about this, is if you can get a hold of any year I would do it.  Yeah, yeah I know they are owned by the big boys now.  This 2009 was as good as the fresh 2014 I tasted on tap at the release party last year. This beer holds up and ages well.  You can stash this one away for a special occasion and it won’t dissapoint.  (13% ABV, 60 IBU).

Ayinger Oktober Fest-Marzen – Privatbrauerei Ayinger, Germany (4.5 stars): It’s that time of year, Oktoberfest! If you can get this beer fresh I would highly recommend it.  It’s a crisp, malty lager in traditional German style.  I had it on draft at the Oktoberfest in Mt. Angel, Oregon and it was really nice.  In fact, all the German beer I had there was on point. This is just the one I would recommend to others.  (5.8% ABV, 25 IBU)

My last recommendation is actually for a book.  and a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails by Wayne Curtis.  My wife bought it for me since I love rum and it looked interesting and it’s a really good read.  He basically traces rum through the path of North American history, starting with the Spanish Conquistadors and the Pirates all the way up to modern day, using rum and rum cocktails that were popular at those time periods as the centerpieces.  It doesn’t get too in depth with the history stuff but dips it’s toe in just enough for a history buff like me.  He doesn’t shy away from “hard”
topics like slavery and war and how those shaped thirsts and appetites of those time periods.  From Pirates to Tiki Bars to Mojitos, this book covers it all and it tells a really good story.  This book made me want rum (bought a bottle of Bacardi Gold) and also the fixings for a good bar like bitters, mixers etc.  It also makes me really interested to delve into the world of the super premium rums which are aged for 20+ years intended to be sipped neat like whiskey.  Dare to dream.  I’m sure they are out of my price range, but the book is not a bad place to start!

Montavilla Brew Works – Grand Opening – July 17th, 2015

Yesterday, I was excited to attend the brewery opening of Montavilla Brew Works for several reasons. First and foremost, the brewery is being opened by a member of the Oregon Brew Crew who has made the jump to pro brewer.  Second, while it’s a little too far out to be “walkable” this is the first brewery (that I know of) opening up in Outer Southeast Portland, so it’s nice to have something in “my neighborhood”.  Lastly, I just happen to go by Stark on the way home, so I stopped in after work.

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There was quite a crowd when I got there, which is a great sign but service was pretty quick.  Montavilla does not serve food, but there are several places around where you can get food and they encourage people to bring in food.  Another interesting thing I noted with their point of sale system which I’ve never seen anywhere else is the fact that you can start a tab, swipe a card and then they give you your card back rather than hold it.  That way after you have a beer, if you want to step across the street and go get some food and then come back for another beer you still have your card with you.

Their tap list includes a lot of classic beer styles as well as some rotating seasonals. They have a Blonde Ale, Red Ale, Pale Ale, Brown Ale (Seasonal), Barleywine (Seasonal), Pilsner (Seasonal) and Imperial Stout (Seasonal) listed on the website.  Yesterday they had a couple of beers also not listed on the website, a Galaxy Double IPA, a Horizon Dry Hopped IPA and a Belgian Golden Strong.  They also had a handful of local guest brews on tap, including Rogue Root Beer as a non-alcoholic option.

The two beers I tried while I was there were the double IPA and the Belgian golden strong.  The IPA was very nice with strong bitterness but also lots of dank, floral and piney hop aroma and flavor.  I’m guessing from Galaxy in the name that it’s a single hop beer with just Galaxy hops.  The Belgian Golden (pictured below) was a very nice ale with characteristic Belgian characteristics.  It was fruity with some bubblegum esters and just the right amount of “funk”.  Well done with both of those beers.

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I highly recommend checking out Montavilla Brew Works.  It’s really good beer, and nice to see something open up in Outer Southeast.

Brannon’s Deputation Imperial Red Ale – Brannon’s Brewpub

Brannon’s Brewpub is a relatively new entry into the brewpub market in the greater Portland area.  Located in Beaverton I haven’t had a chance to visit their location, but one of their beers (along with the one they collaborated with) was a guest tap at Culmination.

Deputation Imperial Red Ale – 8.0% ABV, 51 IBU

This beer pours a dark but brilliant red and is fairly clear.  The aroma has that sweet malt smell, that to me reminds me of cotton candy.  I haven’t yet figured out where this smell comes from but my best bet is from the heat treated sugars in Caramel/Crystal type malts.  The flavor starts with a little bit of malt sweetness and then quickly shifts into a strong hop bitterness of a classic Northwest style red.  The Brannon’s website says they use a lot of rye in this recipe but I don’t recall a lot of the characteristic rye spiciness, but I also wasn’t expecting it so I may have attributed it to the hops.  The beer finishes clean with some lingering bitterness.

Rating: 4 (of 5) stars – Certainly good enough to make me want to try some of their other offerings.